Will Norman Quintero’s past haunt his congressional campaign?
A Democrat seeking an Inland congressional seat has faced scrutiny over his business methods, including complaints that he practiced law without a license and misled homeowners seeking mortgage relief.
The allegations against Norman Quintero come in addition to arrests in Florida for battery in 2002 and stalking – dating violence in 2012. Prosecutors declined to proceed with the stalking case and Quintero’s arraignment on the battery charge was canceled.
Quintero has denied any wrongdoing and said the criminal charges stemmed from a bitter divorce that followed him from Texas to Florida.
Quintero, 52, of Lake Mathews is on the June 5 primary ballot in the 42nd Congressional District, which represents much of western Riverside County. He is running to unseat Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, in a race that includes Democrat Julia Peacock and independent Matt Woody.
The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
A self-described pastor, real estate broker, psychotherapist, and owner of radio and TV stations, Quintero lived in Florida prior to moving to California.
In August 2002, The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported the Florida Bar received at least 35 complaints from people who said Quintero, then a local school board candidate, “was advertising himself as a lawyer and represented them in legal proceedings without a license.”
“Many of the people, mostly immigrants or foreigners here on visas, claimed that Quintero took hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees from each of them but did little to advance their cases,” the newspaper reported. “Many said they feared deportation, as a result.”
Quintero “never acknowledged any specific wrongdoing, but on Feb. 14, 1997, he signed an agreement with the Florida Bar acknowledging that he is not licensed to practice law in the state of Florida and would stop doing so,” the newspaper reported
But the bar continued to receive complaints and sought a court order against him. In December, 1997, the state Supreme Court ordered him not to practice law, according to the Sentinel.
In an emailed statement, Quintero said: “Twenty-one years ago, I assisted (a) few people in matters regarding their immigration.”
“In my efforts to help them, I exceeded my boundaries, though in agreement with the Florida Bar – everyone should comply with the law. As a result, I was never charged (with) any violation of the law. My actions were limited to help people in need who were unable to hire a licensed attorney due to language barriers and/or limited financial resources.”
In 2002, Quintero told the Sentinel: “That was a big-time misunderstanding because I was in a law firm with a few attorneys who should have known better.”
“He said he understood federal law allowed people without attorney’s licenses to practice certain kinds of immigration law, and that he tried to limit his practice to those,” the newspaper reported.
In 2012, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation filed an administrative complaint in which Quintero and Quality Florida Group Corp. were listed as “Respondents.” Quintero was listed as the corporation’s principal representative.”
“In several loan modifications offered between July 2010 to September 2011, Respondents solicited, charged, and received payments for loan modification services before completing or performing all services included in the agreement for loan modification services,” the complaint alleged.
According to the complaint, the loan modification agreement omitted a written notice of the borrower’s right to cancel up to within three days after the agreement is signed, and that the lender cannot collect payment until all promised services are rendered.
In a 2012 agreement with regulators, Quintero did not admit to any violations. But he agreed to withdraw his license application and to refund eight consumers who submitted complaints a total of $4,950, records show.
In his response, Quintero wrote: “In (the) year 2010, my company made some loan modifications, inadvertently after a change (in Florida statutes), my company did not update the contract (in) a timely manner.”
“As the former CEO and registered agent of the corporation, I assumed full responsibility for the corporation’s action.”
Quintero stressed that the complaint was filed against the corporation, “not against me as an individual.” He said his ex-wife was the corporation’s office manager.
The eight clients who got refunds “were charged a third-party fee,” Quintero said. “Neither the Quality Florida Group, CORP nor did any of the partners, officers, or employees benefit directly or indirectly from the collected funds.”
Quintero’s name also came up in a news report from Dallas, Texas TV station Univision 23 uploaded to YouTube on May 1, 2010. The Spanish-language report focused on complaints made against Quality Florida Group Corp., which Univision reported as being operated by Quintero in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite.
The video shows a female demonstrator named Ofelia picketing outside Quintero’s office and being interviewed by reporter Virgilio Avila. The woman mentioned that she knew of several people who had been victimized by the company.
“One had lost their home, another had been forced into foreclosure and several others had been waiting for over a year to get their cases resolved,” the protestor said.
Quintero commented that there were few complaints compared with all the customers he had helped. “In this office, we have even helped to pay for mortgages for people even when we didn’t have the time, one day before their foreclosure,” he added.
When asked by the reporter about his license, Quintero explained that it was not showing as currently active, according to the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending, because it was in the process of being renewed.
In his response, Quintero wrote: “No charges or complaints were ever filed against me even after the television station displayed, on (its) report, telephone numbers for any affected party to file a complaint.”
The protesters shown in the report, he said, “were neither my clients nor did they ever participate in any of the business activities that I have been involved in …”
Quintero currently holds a broker license from the California Bureau of Real Estate, records show.